The Natural History of Beer

Text and photos by Shannon Kelley

In case you didn’t know, October is Beer Awareness Month (a
brown-ribbon campaign is surely in the works). And I am a big fan
of beer. While local brewers certainly don’t get the acclaim
enjoyed by our area’s vintners, they’re heroes just the same, and
the Museum of Natural History gave them their due recently at its
Natural History of Beer event.

The Sunday afternoon affair got rolling with a little
intelligentsia, in the form of educational talks punctuated with
the frequent refrain “Let’s drink!” Local brew gurus (gubrews?
brewrus?) offered adoring fans their insights: The Brew House’s
Pete Johnson spoke about the history of beer; Paul Wright of Island
Brewing Company talked about the brewing process; and the Santa
Barbeerian Brew Club offered its home-brewing tips. Some say a
little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but in the right hands,
it’s pure hoppy heaven, as we found out a little later on, touring
the museum’s beautiful grounds while tasting (and I use that word
generously) dozens of expertly brewed beers.

My taller half and I started our tour early, stopping first at
Telegraph Brewery, where we offered our congratulations to owner
and brewmaster Brian Thompson on his rapidly expanding empire (look
for bottles soon). We sampled his ale (with which we’re already on
very familiar terms), as well as his new porter, which was a
perfect specimen.

Our glasses half full (I’m nothing if not an optimist), we
wandered over to the DogHouse booth, where Tony Debok was busy
assembling their fantastic pulled-pork sandwiches. We couldn’t help
but laugh as we watched the white-smocked gourmands stopping by
with their considerably fancier fare, sheepishly offering a trade
for a taste of the DogHouse’s goods. Around that time, my husband
ditched me in an attempt to dine

his way through every single food item on offer, while a thirsty
crowd began to fill the shady outdoor reaches of Beer Boulevard and
Indy columnist Joe Woodard’s polka band, Headless Household, kicked
into action, knocking out perennial faves like their timeless
ditty, “Here’s to the Heimlich Maneuver.” More tasting ensued, and
then a rumor reached me: beer ice cream! Could it be? I collected
my husband, now teetering dangerously on the brink of a full-blown
food coma, and made a beeline for The Brew House’s stand, where we
found that the rumor was indeed true. Brilliant! My new heroes,
Ryan Cox and Pete Johnson, offered me a taste of not one but two
varieties, made from The Brew House’s potent elixirs: one from
their stout, one from St. Barb’s Trippel. My favorite, as it turned
out, was a fluke. Though they’d prepared the stout version
beforehand, when they arrived, they realized they didn’t have
enough, so, innovative blokes that they are, they doused a batch of
vanilla ice cream with the St. Barb’s ale, and voilà! Being in the
presence of such genius was humbling.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Beer is proof that God loves us and
wants us to be happy.” And beer ice cream? I’m a believer.

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